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  • Mark Salisbury

Addressing the skills and recruitment gap in last mile delivery sector

Updated: May 11, 2023

A new report highlights a vital skills gap beyond the HGV driver crisis, which is affecting the warehouses, sortation centres, couriers and digital logistics management needed to match rising consumer demand for online shopping.

The report from Lifetime Training, one of the UK’s largest apprenticeship training providers, is based on industry insights from partner such as DX and B&Q as well as UK-wide consumer study with 3Gem market research. It discovers that attitudes to work in this fast-paced and rapidly growing sector are out of date, and that the industry needs to urgently reframe the opportunities and career pathways available in order to attract the future talent needed to deliver faster, greener and more efficient services to customers.

47% of the population would consider a role in last mile delivery, research has revealed, yet the rapidly growing sector is struggling to recruit and re-skill the workforce needed to match consumer demand.

Interviewed for the report, Clare Bottle CEO of UK Warehouse Association observes: “Much has been written about the shortage of delivery drivers, but the truth is that further up the chain there are severe labour shortages too.”

A nationwide survey commissioned by Lifetime Training explored the attitudes to last mile delivery - the final journey from warehouse to customer - and has revealed the barriers to recruitment and retention in the rapidly growing sector. The accompanying report, Bringing your A Game to the last mile, explores how apprenticeships can help address both current skills shortages and future workforce requirements by building lasting career pathways in the sector.

The research found that, while 88% of respondents now buy goods online, a third of people don’t know what a role in last mile delivery involves. 56% knew that couriers worked in the sector, but only 21% of respondents knew that warehousing also plays a vital part. The statistics highlight a public misconception of last mile delivery; with many people unaware of less visible roles such as those in warehousing, data analysis and customer service.

George Dee, Head of Employability at Lifetime Training, explains: “We’re encouraged by findings that suggest awareness and appreciation of more visible roles are improving, with 56% of respondents rating HGV drivers, couriers and delivery drivers more highly post pandemic. Yet, the industry is still struggling to recruit. According to a report by Edge, the demand for transport and logistics employees is 4.6 times higher than the number of young people aspiring to work in the sector. To improve attraction, employers need to demonstrate the scale and diversity of the opportunities an apprenticeship can offer.”

The report also uncovered negative perceptions surrounding pay and working conditions, with 41% of respondents saying that low pay would prevent them from taking a role in last mile delivery and 24% saying physical work would be a barrier. In fact, the logistics and warehouse sectors witnessed the second highest pay change of any industry in the UK from October 2019 to October 2021 (+9.63%), behind only the technology sector[1], while the range of career options available is increasing as the sector continues to create innovative, technology-driven delivery solutions.

Matthew Robinson, Partnership Director at Lifetime Training, explains: “Employers in the sector urgently need to position the last mile as an innovative and future-looking sector and offer high quality, sector-specific training to attract candidates and build the future workforce in last mile delivery.”

The research also revealed that nearly half (46%) of respondents said that good training and skills and career progression were the most important factors when considering a new job role. This fails to marry up with people’s views of working in the last mile, with 19% of survey respondents saying that a lack of career progression would prevent them from taking a role in the sector.

Phil Whitehouse, Head of Curriculum and Learning Technologies at Lifetime Training, said: “We work with employers to build programmes with clear and visible pathways, so learners consider apprenticeships as not ‘just a job’, but a foundation for their ongoing career progression and future opportunities. Employers that can clearly demonstrate the opportunities for ongoing development and progression will gain a competitive edge for attracting talent.”



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